The Maldives Supreme Court’s controversial anti-defection ruling threw into doubt the opposition’s bid to unseat the speaker and wrest control of parliament with defections from the divided ruling party.
In a joint statement, the four-party opposition alliance called the ruling “a deliberate and politically motivated attempt by President [Abdulla] Yameen to thwart the no-confidence motion” and “an egregious example of the executive’s continual manipulation of the judiciary to retain power and obstruct the opposition’s majority in parliament”.
Former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed, who signed a coalition pact with the Jumhooree Party and Adhaalath Party in March, pledged to support the re-election campaign of any MP who is stripped of his seat.
He said, “God willing I will work to re-elect any member who loses his seat for working for the sake of the people. Don’t be concerned about losing your seat after signing the no-confidence [motion] against the speaker. With God’s will, we will take back your seat for you.”
Ministers and ruling party lawmakers meanwhile welcomed the ruling as “a victory for democracy” and celebrated the end of the “MPs transfer market.”
Shortly after the ruling was issued Thursday evening, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan invited renegade MPs who left the party after signing the no-confidence motion to return.
Ten MPs left the Progressive Party of Maldives after the Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling, but the party’s secretariat refused to accept their resignation citing ongoing inquiries by its ethics committee.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, MPs who were elected on political party tickets will lose their seat once the Elections Commission informs parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties. The disqualified lawmaker will be able to contest the by-election triggered by the vacancy.
Most of the dissenting MPs, however, expressed defiance and vowed to vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed despite the threat of disqualification.
One MP said, “There will be no compromise even if I lose my seat. I will vote against Maseeh. This is the time to move forward with courage.”
Another one said, “No change to determination. I will remain steadfast in the righteous path.”